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UNWTO expected to play larger role as tourism becomes world's biggest

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-09-18 10:49

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is likely to play a larger role in the future as tourism has become the world's biggest industry with an estimated 10 percent contribution to the global gross domestic product last year.

The latest UNWTO data show a continued growth in global tourism. In January-June, international tourists increased to 598 million, making it the strongest half-year rise since 2010.

UNWTO expected to play larger role as tourism becomes world's biggest

Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), addresses the opening ceremony of the 22nd General Assembly of the UNWTO, in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, Sept 13, 2017.[Photo/Xinhua]

A sustainable tourism for development and growth is expected of the sector amid global economic sluggishness. Its role in promoting understanding between countries as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges is meanwhile highlighted especially in the face of terrorist threats in many parts of the world.

As the 22nd session of the UNWTO General Assembly held on Sept 13-16 in Chengdu, China came under the framework of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said he is very proud of the relevance.

"I feel very proud to have contributed to expanding the capacity of travel and tourism to the progress of the SDGs (UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals) that guide our common action to 2030. This General Assembly is a unique opportunity to continue advancing together," he said.

With a focus on sustainable development and tourism, the biennial UNWTO gathering this year has highlighted the importance of building partnerships for development, taking tourism cooperation concerning the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative as an example.

Discussions related to the China-proposed initiative during a high-level session following the opening ceremony on Wednesday covered such travel facilitation details as visa policy and insurance in future cooperation.

Li Jinzao, head of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), told reporters the discussions were fruitful and successful, while Rifai described them as "conducive."

"China is an inspiration to others in terms of its supportive tourism policies and in placing tourism at the center of its poverty alleviation and national development strategies," Rifai said.

More than 1,300 delegates including tourism ministers from over 130 countries attended the UNWTO meeting in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province and an economic center in Western China.

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